In The Know: Oklahoma on track for pandemic’s worst month | State leaders frustrated with lack of vaccine | More

In The KnowIn The Know is your daily briefing on Oklahoma policy-related news. Inclusion of a story does not necessarily mean endorsement by the Oklahoma Policy Institute. Some stories included here are behind paywall or require subscription. OK Policy encourages the support of Oklahoma’s state and local media, which are vital to an informed citizenry. Subscribe to In The Know and see past editions.

Oklahoma News

Oklahoma on track for worst month of pandemic: Oklahoma is on track to have its worst month of the COVID-19 pandemic so far, based on the number of cases and reported deaths in the first half of January. By Friday, the state had recorded more than 57,000 new cases of coronavirus in the first two weeks of 2021. Nationally, Oklahoma led the nation in test positivity in the last week, according to the latest federal Community Profile Reports, which have largely replaced the weekly updates and recommendations from the White House Coronavirus Task Force. The state was also No. 3 behind Arizona and California in the number of cases per 100,000 people in the past 7 days. [Oklahoma Watch]

  • As coronavirus surges in Oklahoma, Gov. Kevin Stitt mum on next steps [The Oklahoman]
  • COVID-19: Seven more deaths reported in Oklahoma, still No. 1 in U.S. for test positivity [Tulsa World]
  • Oklahoma reports 1,800 new coronavirus cases, 7 more deaths [AP News]
  • Oklahoma is approaching 3,000 COVID-19 deaths [AP News] | [The Frontier]

‘Extremely frustrated’: Federal reserve of COVID vaccine doesn’t exist, ridding Oklahoma officials’ hopes of more shots: When the federal government announced this week it would start releasing coronavirus vaccine shots that were held in reserve for second doses, Oklahoma officials were optimistic, hoping they could greatly expand how many people could be vaccinated. [The Frontier] Deputy Commissioner of Health Keith Reed said in a press conference this afternoon that, like health care officials around the nation, he was surprised and “extremely frustrated” to learn Thursday that the promised second doses would not be arriving. [NonDoc]

Health News

COVID causes unexpected dip in OKCPD’s mental health calls: Despite projections, Oklahoma City Police responded to fewer mental health calls in 2020 than the previous year. Police were on track to answer a record number of mental health calls last year. But mental health calls dipped slightly in 2020, according to reports requested by Oklahoma Watch. [Oklahoma Watch]

State & Local Government News

Day passes quietly at state Capitol despite threats of violence: The potential counter-protesters probably outnumbered the potential protesters, and both of them combined were outnumbered by tourists at the state Capitol on Sunday. And so the day that some on social media had hyped as day for violent protests at state capitols passed quietly at Oklahoma’s. [Tulsa World]

Shalynne Jackson named city of Oklahoma City’s first diversity officer: Shalynne Jackson, a University of Oklahoma graduate, has been named the city of Oklahoma City’s first Chief Diversity and Inclusion officer. City Manager Craig Freeman announced the appointment last week. [The Oklahoman]

Oklahoma tribes want criminal justice agreements with state: Tribe leaders of the Cherokee and Chickasaw Nations want Congress to allow them to make agreements with the state of Oklahoma in the wake of a U.S. Supreme Court decision regarding criminal jurisdictions. [AP News]

Oklahoma Department of Transportation expecting $150M from latest COVID relief package: The Oklahoma Department of Transportation expects a $150 million dollar boost from the $900 billion coronavirus relief package passed by Congress and signed into law by President Trump last month. [Public Radio Tulsa]

First Black justice on Oklahoma Supreme Court to retire: Oklahoma Supreme Court Justice Tom Colbert will retire effective Feb. 1. “With the retirement of Justice Tom Colbert, the Supreme Court of Oklahoma will lose a strong voice of sound reason and superb legal analysis,” said Oklahoma Chief Justice Richard Darby. [Tulsa World]

Column: Making a difference takes preparation: In order to provide more information regarding nuances of the 2021 legislative session and the overall process of how the Oklahoma State Capitol operates, OICA and the Oklahoma Policy Institute offer two separate trainings. Both training sessions will be presented virtually online. [Joe Dorman / The Duncan Banner] Register today for OK Policy’s State Budget Summit and Advocate Training (Jan. 26-27) and OICA’s Legislative Learning Lab (Jan. 27-Feb. 1)

Federal Government News

Oklahoma tribal leaders urge confirmation of Interior nominee Deb Haaland: Leaders of 26 Oklahoma Indian tribes are urging confirmation of Rep. Deb Haaland as Secretary of Interior, saying President-elect Joe Biden’s nominee “understands sovereignty and appreciates the trust relationship and our nation’s treaty obligations.” [The Oklahoman]

Rep. Stephanie Bice on US Capitol riot: ‘There’s a lot of blame to go around’: Bice was in the House gallery when the Trump supporters surrounded the Capitol. She was listening to the debate about Arizona’s electoral votes, which had been challenged by some Republicans in the House and Senate. [The Oklahoman]

  • US Capitol siege has echoes of the bombing of the Oklahoma City federal building [The Oklahoman]
  • Lankford apologizes to Black voters for backing Trump’s election deceit [New York Times]
  • Capitol riot delays display of OKC artist’s ‘Her Flag’ [The Oklahoman]
  • Ross Swimmer: In Congress, your job is the lead, not to test the wind [Ross Swimmer Op-Ed / Tulsa World]

Rilla Askew: Some call the assault on the Capitol unprecedented, but we have seen this before: “I’ve been writing about Oklahoma’s place in the American master narrative for a while now. My sense that we’re the repository for the nation’s distilled sins and griefs seems borne out again in the 21st century with the assault on the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6. We know that two of the 20th century’s deadliest acts of white-supremacist terror took place in Oklahoma — in 1921, with the white mob assault on Greenwood in Tulsa, and in 1995, with the bombing of the Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City. Both were predicated on lies, as was this one.” [Rilla Askew Commentary / NonDoc]

Criminal Justice News

Valley Brook and its officials sued, accused in unconstitutional debt collection scheme from poor residents: A lawsuit against the Town of Valley Brook and three of its officials was filed in the Oklahoma County District Court last week, alleging they and others are complicit in an unconstitutional debt collection scheme that preys on people who are poor. [KFOR]

Economic Opportunity

Tulsa tenants should have the right to an attorney during an eviction case, TU experts say: Law experts from the University of Tulsa are calling for tenants to have a right to an attorney during evictions proceedings, much like an accused criminal has the right to an attorney during a trial. [Tulsa World] OK Policy: Providing legal representation could begin to fix Oklahoma’s broken eviction process.

Nonprofit looks to keep COVID childcare program going as Tulsa Public Schools delay students’ return: With Tulsa Public Schools pushing students’ in-person return back to late March, a local nonprofit aims to continue partnerships that set up low- and no-cost child care. [Public Radio Tulsa]

Oklahoma City’s new overnight winter shelter opens, will be ‘literally lifesaving’: For the last few months of winter, people experiencing unsheltered homelessness in Oklahoma City will be able to stay in a new overnight shelter. The emergency winter shelter opened Friday at the former Willard School, 1400 NW 3 St., west of downtown. [The Oklahoman]

Economy & Business News

The ‘whitewashing’ of Black Wall Street: A century after the Tulsa massacre, Black entrepreneurs in the city’s Greenwood district feel threatened with erasure yet again, amid demands for reparations. As Tulsa authorities provide millions in financial incentives to revitalize the district ahead of an anticipated influx of tourists for this year’s centennial of the 1921 bloodshed, Black entrepreneurs say they are being threatened with erasure yet again, shut out of Greenwood’s most prestigious development projects and priced out of prime retail locations. [Washington Post]

  • Tulsa, 100 years later (podcast) [Washington Post]
  • National Park Service considers nomination to put Tulsa’s Greenwood District on National Register of Historic Places: A decades-long effort to get the historic Greenwood District listed on the National Register of Historic Places could finally pay off this month. [Tulsa World]

2nd coronavirus wave has OKC small business owners worried about future, study says: According to a study conducted by LendingTree, 74 percent of small business owners in Oklahoma City believe it will take four months or longer before their businesses return to normal. [FOX25]

Where will Oklahoma’s energy industry go from here? The likely answer could surprise you: Presidential administrations and Congresses throughout the past 40 years undoubtedly worked to nudge the nation’s energy and climate-related policies one way or another. [The Oklahoman]

Survey: Oklahoma perfect for energy investment: Oklahoma is the most attractive jurisdiction for oil and gas investment in North America, according to a recent survey from the Fraser Institute. [The Journal Record]

Education News

OKC elementary schools to reopen next week: Oklahoma City elementary schools are on track to reopen Tuesday for the first time in two months. Students in pre-K through fourth grade who are not enrolled in the e3 virtual curriculum will return to in-person classes, separated into either Tuesday-Thursday or Wednesday-Friday schedules. [The Oklahoman]

Amid political pressure, Oklahoma schools use caution in returning to in person classes: Under the right conditions, medical experts say schools can and should stay open despite the COVID-19 pandemic. But with thousands of new cases reported daily across Oklahoma, some school districts continue to use caution despite political pressure from Oklahoma Governor Kevin Stitt. [KOSU]

  • The week in coveducation: New school quarantine policy met with criticism [NonDoc]
  • Capitol Insider: Stitt urges schools to relax COVID-19 quarantine practices [KGOU]
  • Point of View: Oklahoma governor’s worrisome spin about coronavirus and schools [Op-Ed / The Oklahoman]
  • Opinion: New Oklahoma guidelines aim at keeping kids in classrooms [Owen Canfield III / The Oklahoman]

General News

Oklahoma senator, preacher George Young ties scripture, text from Martin Luther King Jr. speech: An Oklahoma legislator and retired Baptist minister shared a message of hope Sunday on the eve of the Martin Luther King Jr. national holiday. Sen. George Young, D-Oklahoma City, spoke at St. John Missionary Baptist Church’s virtual worship service. [The Oklahoman]

  • In the throes of the civil rights movement, MLK Jr. visited Tulsa to urge a direct but peaceful affront to the evils of segregation [Tulsa World]
  • In centennial year, Race Massacre front of mind for many on Martin Luther King Jr. Day [Public Radio Tulsa]
  • Photo gallery: Tulsa area churches display Black Lives Matter murals in parking lots [Tulsa World]

Focus: Black Oklahoma postcast relaunched: Tri-City Collective, KOSU and Tulsa Artist Fellowship are excited to announce the relaunch of the Focus: Black Oklahoma radio show and podcast, following a hiatus in production caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. [KOSU]

Oklahoma Local News

  • Tulsa County treasurer, clerk, to begin operating out of new county office building Tuesday [Tulsa World]
  • Cherokee Nation, OSU officials officially open Tahlequah medical school [Public Radio Tulsa]
  • Town hall about redistricting process to be held Thursday in Enid [Enid News & Eagle]

Quote of the Day

“Feeding people is not political. It’s just about what Martin Luther King always espoused to: helping others and bringing others up, so to speak. And that’s what we’re trying to do. We’re just feeding people and helping them out; giving them a hand up, not a hand out. Food equality is a first step toward social equality.”

-John Sanders of the Community Food Bank of Eastern Oklahoma [Tulsa World]

Number of the Day


Oklahoma’s rank for COVID-19 positivity testing, which was 21.1 percent for January 8-14. [Community Profile Report]

Policy Note

In Its First 100 Days, The Biden Administration Must Restore The Soul Of Medicaid: President-elect Joe Biden must immediately address ongoing health and economic emergencies. A top priority should be steadying and rebuilding Medicaid, the health care safety-net program that covers nearly one-quarter of the population. The Trump administration weakened many features of Medicaid that make it uniquely reliable for low-income people and for states, especially in times of crisis. The Biden administration has no time to lose; stabilizing Medicaid will go a long way toward improving the circumstances of disadvantaged populations who are hit hardest by COVID-19 in the near term and beyond. Medicaid

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Jessica joined OK Policy as a Communications Associate in January 2018. A Mexican immigrant, she was a Clara Luper Scholar at Oklahoma City University where she obtained a B.A. in Political Science and Philosophy. Prior to joining OK Policy, Jessica worked at a digital marketing agency in Oklahoma City. She is an alumna of both the National Education for Women (N.E.W.) Leadership Institute (2013) and OK Policy's Summer Policy Institute (2015). In addition to her role at OK Policy, Jessica serves as a board member for Dream Action Oklahoma in OKC and communications director for Dream Alliance Oklahoma in Tulsa.

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